What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

a podcast with Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson

Category: new episode (Page 1 of 3)

Episode 30: Mom Friends- How to Make Them, How To Keep Them

Do you go on a moms’ night out and talk about … your kids? Does morning dropoff chit-chat feel  like a middle school cafeteria?

In this episode we talk about deepening bonds with your mom friends, and keeping those relationships going when your kids graduate from whatever preschool or karate class brought you together in the first place.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • how to make the leap from a “mom chat” to a mom friend
  • whether you have to be a phone talker to be a good mom friend (Amy hopes not)
  • what to do when it’s your third kid and you’re plumb out of friend-making bandwidth
  • the Bechdel test and its useful application to your mom-friend conversations (if you don’t know “Bobby’s mom’s” first name, try harder)
  • imposter syndrome, sadly universal in the mom friend world
  • what to do when your kids don’t want to be friends anymore but you still like each other
  • how to maintain your relationships with friends who aren’t parents (remember them?)

We love this advice from Darcy Shapiro for Scary Mommy: “How Making Mom Friends Feels Just Like Dating”

A wise friend once told me about the rule of threes- that is, she always makes sure when she likes someone (male, female, friend or date), she makes a point of hanging out with that person three times in quick succession, thereby never letting the momentum lull. After three times, a level of comfort is generally established whereby it becomes acceptable once again to take things for granted and get lazy. I fully ascribe to this strategy.


If you’re looking for another great parenting podcast, check out Joyful Courage. Hosted by Casey O’Roarty, Joyful Courage is a “conscious parenting podcast” featuring real talk with parenting experts designed to support, inspire and inform those of us on the parent journey. Casey believes our kids choose us, and that the challenges they present us with are exactly the challenges we need. How’s that for perspective?

Episode 29: Small Town vs Big City (with guest host Meagan Francis of The Mom Hour)

City versus country (versus the great strip-mall in-between): where’s the best place to raise your kids? Amy hashes it out with guest host Meagan Francis, founder of the Life Listened podcast network and co-host of The Mom Hour, one of the top parenting podcasts on iTunes! 

For the other half of this Host Swap, our very own Margaret Ables is talking Regional Parenting Differences with The Mom Hour’s Sarah Powers this week. Give it a listen in your podcast app or right here:

If The Mom Hour isn’t on your podcast subscription list yet, it’s about to be!

In our own What Fresh Hell episode, Amy and Meagan discuss differences between big-city and small-town living like:

  • kids’ sports
  • academics
  • diversity
  • independence
  • culture
  • peer-led play time
  • minivans with trunks
  • high school interviews
  • friendships
  • basements, the lack thereof being perhaps the largest drawback of city parenting life. As Andrew Cotto put it in the New York Times:


…any movement is mitigated by the fact that we have neighbors downstairs who don’t want to live below the circus. “Please stop jumping” is the sentence I repeat more than any other while at home.

Where are you raising your kids… and does it have more benefits or drawbacks? Tell us in the comments!


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Episode 28: Is This Battle Worth Fighting?

A couple weeks ago, we asked our friends on our Facebook page to tell us what battles they’re currently fighting in their homes— or choosing not to.

As we all know, there are some parenting buttons our children push that are perhaps best left ignored. Then there are dishes left in the sink instead of the immediately adjacent dishwasher, which we believe we have no choice but to interpret as a spouse’s call to arms.

In this episode we decide once and for forevermore which of the following battles are worth fighting:

  • messy playrooms
  • messy kids’ rooms
  • food outside the kitchen
  • co-sleeping children
  • co-sleeping pets
  • matching outfits (for school, church, family weddings)
  • shorts in the winter
  • picky eating
  • hats at the dinner table
  • saying “like” like, every third word

Even if a battle is worth— let’s say “skirmishing”— there are more and less productive ways of making your point, and in this episode we lay out what does and doesn’t work for us.

We also love Stephanie Dolgoff’s article for ParentingHow To Choose Your Battles.

Stephanie suggests creating a short “family-values list” of non-negotiable points (like no name-calling) in a non-confrontational moment. And when all else fails, don’t be afraid to compromise. As Stephanie writes,

“When [your kids] see you work out what’s really important, they learn how to work out for themselves what’s really important.”

See that? Choose your battles, and you just might win a few.

This episode is brought to you by Pip & Grow, makers of the Smitten Sleep System for babies. Inspired by the Finnish tradition, the durable and lightweight Smitten is ready to go wherever your infant goes. You can assemble the Smitten in five minutes or less— no cursing required!– and the Smitten meets all of the safe sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Use the code “FRESH” to get $10 off a Woodland Smitten. (That’s the gray baby box with the cute deer silhouette and birch pattern.) Find out more at pipandgrow.com— and tell them we sent you!


Episode 27: The Homework Slog

Do our kids have too much homework? Yup. Agreed. But since moving to a yurt and living off the grid may not be an option for your family, here’s how to make the homework slog a little quicker and less painful at your house. Perhaps even tear-free. (We can dream.)


In this episode we discuss

  • whether the kitchen table is an acceptable homework location (one of us says yes)
  • whether you– or your kid– should be checking the nifty new school website with every assignment listed  (one of us says no)
  • how to help your older kids ignore the distractions of the internet when most of their homework– and many of their textbooks– are online
  • how to invent a system that supports your kid… and then back away from the oversight

Our favorite advice on this topic (besides our own) is from KJ Dell’Antonia, who provided these “three cardinal rules of homework” in her most recent newsletter:

1. It’s not yours.

2. What kids learn from homework is rarely on the worksheet.

3. You don’t want to make tonight’s homework better. You want to make ALL the homework better.

Here’s links to some other advice and research discussed in this episode:

KJ Dell’Antonia (she’s good at this) for NYT Motherlode: Creating a Homework Habit

Bruce Feiler for the NYT: The Homework Squabbles

The Learning Habit Study (American Journal of Family Therapy)

The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting by Dr Stephanie Donaldson Pressman 

With this episode we celebrate our podcast’s first birthday!

Thanks to all of you who listen, laugh, and tell your friends. It’s been a wonderful first year for us and we look forward to continuing the conversation! 

This episode is brought to you by SheBee Jewelry. Women who wear SheBee (like us) love to express an individual sense of style. SheBee jewelry adds a touch of chic to elevate the everyday. Get a little something for yourself— or create some hints you can not so subtly drop for your next birthday– at shebee.com and get 15% off with code FRESH.

Episode 26: Pets- Worst Idea Ever?

Should your family get a pet? Heavens, no. Take it from two extremely reluctant pet owners of the cat, dog, and fish variety.

Okay, pets have upsides: their cute little faces. Their tolerating humiliating headdresses. But there are downsides as well, and in this episode we elaborate them for you in enough detail that you will vow never, ever to cave to your children’s demands for a pet.

Barring that, we hope you will at least consult our extremely useful Pet Matrix in order to balance your future pet’s fun-to-hassle ratio.

In this episode we discuss

  • why getting a pet will not, despite popular sentiment, make an animal lover out of you if you’re not one already
  • why you should or should not let your kids pick the pet’s name
  • how you, once you have a pet, will either travel less, travel differently, or have to find a relative with “pet bandwidth”
  • why you shouldn’t get a hamster cause you can’t handle a dog
  • why birds are an absolutely not

Here’s some useful links for further reading on the topic:

from Lifehacker: Where To Start When You’ve Decided You Want a Dog (first step: “Make sure you’re sure.”)

from PetFinder: How Much a Dog Costs Per Year

from The Orlando Sentinel: Study Says Cats Would Kill You If They Were Bigger

Are you a doting pet owner? A absolutely not-er? A slowly-being-beaten-down-by-clamoring-children holdout? Tell us in the comments!

Facebook photo book static  

This episode is brought to you by PastBook. With PastBook, you can make gorgeous hardcover photo books of your Facebook or Instagram feeds in seriously one click. (And you know that’s where you put all your best photos already.) PastBook does the photo arranging and can also include the captions from your feed as part of each photo. To get started, go to pastbook.com/fresh

Episode 25: Conquering Clutter

America has 3% of the world’s kids… and 40% of the world’s toys. We’ve got clutter, right here in River City.

In our opinion the best decluttering advice, from Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, is to “slow the accumulation of new possessions.” In other words, don’t let all that junk in the front door in the first place.

But assuming your household missed that memo— as ours both have— in this episode we discuss:

  • non-vehicular nonsense
  • our kids’ anxiety about purging toys, even long-forgotten ones
  • the personal blind spots we have when clutter-clearing (Margaret has T-shirts from HIGH SCHOOL)
  • the procrastination-enabling, problem-compounding reality of owning a storage unit
  • the great unused potential of the back of your closet doors
  • why the roasting pan you use once a year can become your toy room’s greatest strategy
  • the surprisingly plausible “super-fun cleaning party”

Amy organizes a little bit at a time; she thinks emptying a junk drawer a day is the key to a tidy home.  Margaret says her house is way beyond the help afforded by cleaning out her makeup bag on a Tuesday afternoon. But wherever you lie on the clutter continuum, this episode is full of ideas for eating that elephant. One delicious bite at a time.

Here’s some links to research and resources discussed in this episode:

This episode is brought to you by Blinkist, which distills the best takeaways of popular non-fiction into 15- minute “blinks” you can listen to or read while you’re on the go. Check out decluttering “blinks” like Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out with our special code: http://bit.ly/freshblinkist

Episode 24: Finding Good Babysitters

Babysitters: whether you have a full-time nanny or a college kid two Saturday nights a month, finding and maintaining good childcare is an ongoing process.

You find someone your kids adore– but he’s graduating this year and moving to Southeast Asia. You have someone your kids used to adore, but she has no idea how to help with 5th grade math homework (we mean, who among us does).

As your needs shift, so does the sort of childcare you’re looking for– but doing the right groundwork on the way in can prevent starting all over again in a month.

In this episode we discuss:
  • whether Margaret’s “fog on a mirror test” is an effective way to choose a caregiver
  • the virtues of a “someone at home, someone on the move” system
  • heeding the warning signs that someone is not working out, even if they were once terrific
  • why you should check a caregiver’s social media as part of your research
  • the three types of caregivers as laid out by Tammy Gold, in her book Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer


Friday 12/1/17  at 8 pm

Chappaqua Performing Arts Center, Chappaqua, NY

Tickets $18.50! Grab your mom friends and come laugh with us.

Tickets available here: https://bit.ly/WFHlive


Episode 23: Back to School


Back to school: while some psychologists say we parents must “maintain a positive attitude about summer ending,” we say the end of summer sucks for all concerned and we might as well admit it.

Do you try to impose some order on the countdown to school in your house? Or do you just run hard until the night before and take the pain all at once? As the first back-to-school photos creep into our Facebook feeds, these are the questions we are here to answer.


In this episode we discuss:
  • back to school shopping
  • the batching of unpleasantness (haircuts, dentist appointments) into those last precious moments of freedom
  • all the summer reading and math sheets our kids haven’t done yet
  • how we really better start moving bedtime a little earlier now
  • and the one great upside: the return of “Mom office hours”
Here’s some links to resources discussed in this episode:

How are you managing the back-to-school transition? Join us on our Facebook page and show us your happy (or not so much) back-to-schoolers!

We’re proud to be sponsored by SmartyPants Vitamins. SmartyPants makes a 1-for-1 nutrient grant to Vitamin Angels , which helps expectant mothers and children around the world get the life-changing nutrients they need.
That means that every bottle of SmartyPants you buy improves your children’s health– and the health of children around the world. And SmartyPants has just passed the four million mark: 4.2 million women and children helped! Find out more here

Episode 22 – Birthday Parties – If You Must

Birthday parties: must we really? Every kid, every year? Can we skip the goody bags? Can we ban slumber parties now and forever? Is it possible to spend less than four figures on a fete for a four-year-old?

In this episode we discuss ways to make birthday parties easier:

  • stopping “The Great Crap Exchange” (Margaret will die on this hill)
  • how to manage size of your guest list
  • the right budget for a party  (with special dispensation for parties in the winter)
  • the crucial-ness of the backup activity
  • how Etsy can make your kid’s party Pinterest-worthy for less than a trip to Party City

In the end, it’s Mom’s loving effort that will be remembered more than the result. Right? Amy sure hopes so, because this is the LEGO birthday cake she made for her 8-year-old (stop laughing)


and here is the Lightning McQueen cake Margaret made once (SHOW OFF).

Here’s some interesting/helpful/horrifying links to further reading on this topic:

Thanks to everyone who entered our SmartyPants Vitamins giveaway on our Facebook page! Your birthday party worsts were truly horrible- so bad we turned them all into haikus.  In addition to featuring them in this episode,  we’ll be sharing them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram over the next two weeks, with identities obscured to protect the innocent.

The winner of a SmartyPants Vitamins Family Pack, including their Men’s, Women’s, and Children’s multivitamins, is Heather! Enjoy some #smartyhealth!

Episode 21: How Old Is Old Enough?

Every parent has a “how old is old enough to” question about her kids that keeps her biting her fingernails. And as soon as one of those questions is resolved, a new one crops up. This seems to us a parenting challenge that gets harder, not easier, as our kids get older.

So we asked our listeners: what’s the “how old is old enough to…” question you’re currently struggling with at your house? 

In this episode we discuss (and attempt to decide for the rest of eternity) how old is old enough to:

  • walk to school
  • go home alone from school
  • babysit younger siblings
  • ride bikes around neighborhood
  • get a phone (here we both advise what our friend Ann calls the “StarTac 3000 approach”)
  • go on a date

and more.

Our listener Donna says the answer to all of these questions is probably 12, what she views as the “golden age of responsibility.” But she then adds the caveat that her kids are 6 and 7, so that’s a bit hypothetical on her part. Donna, we’re here to tell you: all 12-year-olds are not created equal.

And our Country Mouse and City Mouse lifestyles dictate different answers to these questions, as well. Margaret’s kids walk home from school alone before they’ve lost all their baby teeth; Amy’s kids have to go through puberty first. 

In the end, of course the answer to any of these questions is “it depends,” and there are no right answers for all kids– only *your* kid. But in this episode, we lay out the factors that should and shouldn’t be part of your calculations (what definitely needs to be left out: what judgy moms will think of you).

Some reading on the topic:

This episode is brought to you by SmartyPants Vitamins!

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Best of all, for every bottle sold SmartyPants makes a 1-for-1 nutrient grant to Vitamin Angels, helping expectant mothers and children in impoverished communities in fifty countries get the life-changing nutrients they need.

Go to smartypantsvitamins.com and use the code SUMMER25 to get 25% off a bottle of Kids Complete Cherry Berry! Code valid through 7/31/17.






Episode 20: Vacationing with Kids- What to Pack?


Rule one of vacationing with kids: don’t vacation with kids.

Oh, your tickets are already purchased? Then you’d better stock up on Ziploc bags. (Take it from a mother who’s needed a few.)

We asked our listeners on our Facebook page for their packing essentials and got dozens of responses. In this episode we dig through them all– and also discuss what might be better off left behind.

Here’s links to a few resources we discuss in the episode:

SeatGuru, for checking your in-flight entertainment options before you get to the airport (although Rule Two of Vacationing with Kids is: Always Have a Backup).

WorkFlowy, for easy packing-list-making. Do it once, keep it forever.

Amazon Video and Netflix apps, both of which offer downloadable content (h/t to The Mom Hour: don’t start downloading fifteen minutes before you leave for the airport!)

Don’t head off for your summer vacation until you listen! Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments!

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